Although many federal executives consider themselves underpaid by industry standards (as, indeed, some are), thousands of would-be executives from the private sector are beating down the doors to get into the upper levels of government.

Over the past few months -- despite a hiring system that is still insider-oriented -- growing numbers of outsiders have tried to penetrate the supergrade levels of government via the new Senior Executive Service.

SES takes in most of the government's 15,000 top-paying jobs in the old supergrade (GS 16, 17 and 18) levels. Average pay in the SES is $50,112.50.

Carter administration brass, for reasons of equity, law and political benefits, are attempting to broaden membership in the SES by targeting recruiting efforts for mid-and high-level jobs to Hispanics, blacks and women's groups -- in pretty much that order.

Each week from 30 to 50 SES level jobs become vacant. Many are filled, in effect, before the incumbent ouits or retires. Agency insiders or people from other departments frequently get first-crack because they know of upcoming openings either through the grapevine, from friends in personnel or, simply, by reading Washington newspapers to keep tabs on retirements, job changes and the like.

But many people outside Washington, or outside government, don't have access to the information sources available - at the office -- to the typical civil servant. One of the sought-after items is the weekly update from the Office of Personnel Management telling the who, what, where and when of SES vacancies.

OPM is trying to expand readership of the bulletin, and the listing is available at the Federal Job Information Center -- on the bulletin board -- at 1900 E. St. NW. OPM doesn't have the facilities to mail individual copies to callers. Besides,most of the jobs, are so technical, or require such impressive credentials as to be meaningless to the unemployed "generalist" who would like to take a whack at running a major federal operation, for $50,000.

Here is a partial list of current top-level federal job openings, where they are and whom to call. Jobs with an asterisk (*) are open only to federal employes:

Air Force wants deputy directors of maintenance (*) at Kelly AFB Tex-at (513-257-2836); Hill AFB Utah and Warner Robins AFB, Ga. . . . Army wants an associate director for research management at Walter Reed (274-9562), and an assistant deputy for resource analysis (*), 325-8711; director of study program management (325-8711)

Federal Home Loan Bank Board has two top-level senior associate general counsel vacancies. Call 277-6060 . . . General Services Administration wants a director of information security oversight office, 566-1207; assistant commissioner for agency services and procurement, same number.

Interior (343-7905) is looking for a chief of its biological services office and a director of information resources management (343-6793), and a director of property acquisition and management (343-6618).

NASA (Space Agency) needs a chief of its public services branch, 755-8411 . . . Navy wants a director of investment and development (*). Call 692-7166. It is also looking for an auditor general, 692-7166 . . . Railroad Retirement wants a research bureau director in Chicago (312-751-4580).

Veterans Administration wants a director of social work service, 389-5118; an associate assistant administrator for personnel (*), 389-3423, and a deputy director for its loan guaranty service, 389-3261; deputy assistant administrator for personnel (*), 389-3423.

If interested call on Tuesday. Remember, today is a holiday.